How to safely dispose of turpentine

Written by edward mercer
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How to safely dispose of turpentine
Turpentine is often used to clean brushes and art supplies. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Turpentine, a commonly used solvent distilled from the resin of pine trees, is a highly flammable organic liquid. Used turpentine is classified as a hazardous household waste (HHW) requiring special treatment and disposal, both because of its flammability and its ability to break down other waste products and generate new, potentially dangerous chemical combinations. If you use turpentine as a solvent, the first thing you should do is look for ways to reduce your use. But once you have a batch of used turpentine, you can safely dispose of the material and reduce its environmental impact.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Two recycling cans, empty paint cans or any empty metal containers
  • Fine steel mesh or a coffee filter
  • Labels
  • Pen
  • Directory of local HHW facilities

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  1. 1

    Collect all of the used turpentine for disposal in a single container.

  2. 2

    Open the used paint container or recycling can.

  3. 3

    Place the steel mesh or coffee filter over the top of the open container.

  4. 4

    Slowly pour the turpentine for disposal through the mesh, filtering out solid pieces of paint or other materials that may change its chemical composition. Stop and clean the filter as necessary.

  5. 5

    Deposit all of the solid elements from the mesh in the second container. Close the second container.

  6. 6

    Close the container holding the turpentine.

  7. 7

    Label both containers. On each label, write what the hazardous waste is and the date it was sealed in the container. The solids removed from the turpentine can be labelled with a specific waste or simply as "hazardous" if you cannot identify them.

  8. 8

    Contact your local HHW facility to arrange pickup of the hazardous waste or receive detailed instructions on what to do with the containers. Most local services will ask you to deliver the containers to a community waste facility. A website such as will direct you to the proper nearby facility.

Tips and warnings

  • For small amounts of turpentine and organic solvents -- less than a pint -- you can simply leave the solvent outside and allow it to evaporate over several hours.
  • Do not use a plastic container to dispose of turpentine; the solvent will corrode the plastic.
  • Always handle turpentine and other hazardous solvents in a well-ventilated area to avoid health risks.

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